The London Preterm Birth Surveillance Clinic

Tommy’s Preterm Surveillance Clinic at St Thomas’ Hospital provides specialist care to pregnant women who are at high risk of having their baby early.

Under the leadership of Professor Andrew Shennan OBE, Tommy’s Preterm Birth Surveillance Clinic at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital has been providing specialist care to women at risk of preterm birth for over 10 years.

The clinic is dedicated to enhancing knowledge of preterm birth and establishing an evidence-based approach to care. Experts state that rolling out this clinic’s model nationally could prevent around 9,000 premature births each year in the UK.

Obiele's story 

Obiele from London experienced two devastating late miscarriages before attending the clinic. With support from the specialist team, her healthy baby boy Tatteh-Kwei was born.

“Professor Shennan took his time to explain everything to me. He described the different types of stitches available and outlined the things that could go wrong with the procedure, but he didn’t focus on the negative. He assured me that, with the right help, I would be able to have a living child. 

The team at Tommy’s Preterm Surveillance Clinic gave me hope and they gave me my child. I’d got to a point where I thought I’d never be a mother, nobody was listening. It was a lonely place. Tommy’s made me feel safe and supported and we are eternally grateful.”

Read Obiele's story here

Obiele and Professor Shennan with her baby

What will happen when I visit the clinic?  

The Preterm Surveillance Clinic aims to provide extra care for women who may have a higher risk of having a baby born too early.

  • Often, you’ll have 2 or 3 appointments at the clinic. Once the team can reassure you that your pregnancy is progressing well, they will discharge you from the clinic around 24 weeks of pregnancy.
  • You will usually speak with a midwife who will ask about your history and discuss your personalised plan of care.
  • You may be offered a transvaginal ultrasound scan of your cervix, where an ultrasound probe is placed into the vagina. Your bladder should be empty for this scan.
  • If you are over 18 weeks pregnant, you may also be offered a vaginal swab test (fetal fibronectin) to help predict your risk of an early birth. This is done with a speculum and then a swab (like a cotton bud) is placed in the vagina for a few seconds. Your swab result is usually ready after 10-25 minutes.

You should attend all other antenatal appointments in addition to visiting the Preterm Surveillance Clinic.The preterm surveillance clinic is extra care for women more likely to have a preterm birth. It does not replace any other care you have.

How to get a referral to Tommy’s Preterm Surveillance Clinic

Women can be referred here if they have a higher risk of giving birth too early. This can be for a number of reasons, such as:

  • previous birth before 34 weeks
  • previous late miscarriage
  • the 'waters' (amniotic sac) have broken before 34 weeks in a previous pregnancy
  • previous surgery to the cervix after an abnormal smear test
  • an unusually shaped womb 
  • women expecting more than 1 baby

If you fit the above criteria, please speak to your GP or consultant. 

Clinic Information

The preterm surveillance clinic is held on Wednesdays at the Fetal Medicine Unit, 8th floor, North Wing, St Thomas’ Hospital.

If you have any questions or concerns about your referral, please contact the Research Midwives on 0207 188 3634  Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

When to seek advice

Sometimes there are signs that you may be going into labour. Often the signs may not lead to preterm labour, but it is important to let your midwife know so you can get advice.

 These signs may include:

  • period-like pains or cramps which come and go
  • fluid leaking from the vagina
  • bleeding from the vagina.

 If you think you may be in labour, do not wait for your next appointment in the preterm surveillance clinic. Contact your maternity unit immediately.